Good Customer Service According To The Consumer

I'm Ready To Buy

The new house will be finished in four weeks and there won't be a refrigerator in the kitchen if we don't buy one soon. My wife has already decided to permit me to follow my testosterone-driven need for researching the best of anything that's either electronic or has moving parts. So, I have the specifications printed out, along with a price quote from the company offering the lowest price known to man, and it's time to head off to Sears.

What Happened Next?

Having inquired in advance of the store's price match policy, I'm ready to make a purchase. I present my written price comparison, and you guessed it, they won't honor it. They say "it has to be from a 'brick and mortar' store within 10 miles" of Sears. Disappointed, I accepted the outcome but decided to ask why I was told otherwise? The assistant manager responded by telling me that "the salesman knows the policy". I didn't get it! Maybe he didn't understand me. So, I very clearly told him that I thought he was defending the employee and that I would appreciate it if he would make the policy more clear to the salesman. Rather than simply agreeing to speak to the salesman to ensure that other customers would receive accurate information in the future, he again told me that "the salesman knows the policy." I couldn't believe my ears and told him that he had defended the employee for the second time. Believe it or not, he responded by telling me that he wasn't defending the employee. However, absent from his words were any attempt to satisfy the customer. Rather than diffusing the situation, the assistant manager actually escalated my dissatisfaction and brought me to the point where it became my mission to complain about his poor customer service.

It was this experience that made me think about writing an article about customer service. However, it was my search on the Internet that convinced me that the businessperson's point of view on this subject has been well expressed, but almost no one has addressed the point of view of the consumer.

What Does The Customer Really Want?

Of course, the businessperson's ultimate goal is to ensure his/her livelihood. In doing so, he/she realizes that ensuring the customers' happiness is key. However, do most know what we really want?

According to Ron Kaufman, a customer service guru, the customer has already taken the time to find the business, has shown an interest in the product or service, may have tried everything in his/her power to find an answer to a question, may have attempted to contact the business, and may have already paid for the product or service. It sure seems to me that the customer has already done most of the work. The least the businessperson can do is to provide us with the service that meets our needs. And frankly, why shouldn't we be much more than satisfied when we make a purchase?

Here are the things the consumer really wants:

1. Be Honest. When you promise a specific time and date for delivery, deliver the item on time or be honest and tell me the reason you're not able to do so.

If you don't know an answer, just admit it and tell me that you'll find out and get back to me as soon as possible.

2. Listen To Me. Listen to what I'm saying. Please don't cut me off because you think you know better than I. Maybe you do, and I'll be happy with your response. But maybe you don't, and I'll be annoyed by your attitude.

3. See The Forest From The Trees. If I happen to be somewhat upset when I speak to you, understand that I am in crisis and that your job is to deal with me by addressing my needs, not by criticizing me for my demeanor or for the tone of my voice.

4. Apologize. If you're wrong, apologize to me. If you make a mistake, admit it and try to fix it to the best of your ability. Please don't attempt to cover up a mistake. I don't believe the check is in the mail, the truck was in an accident, or any other standard excuse.

5. Answer Your Telephone. I feel frustrated when nobody answers the telephone and somewhat less than warm and fuzzy when I have to talk to a machine instead of a real live person.

6. Return My Phone Call. Please don't keep me waiting. If you can't get back to me in a reasonable amount of time, don't let me think you don't care. Call me and let me know that you're still working on addressing my concern.

7. Go Out Of Your Way For Me. If I ask you to help me find something and I seem confused, don’t just tell me where it is. Show me where it is.

If I ask you for something special, try to say "yes" if you can. Just because something is not within your customer service policy doesn't mean it's illegal and recognize that making an exception for me is not the same as making a policy change. I will definitely appreciate the special treatment.

Post Script

If you would like to know the outcome of my experience at Sears, I'll be glad to share it. I took the time to call the store manager. When we spoke, I decided that our conversation should focus on the lack of good customer service rather than on the misinformation originally provided by the salesperson. I suggested that there would have been little or no customer dissatisfaction had the assistant manager simply told me that he would speak to the employee so that others wouldn't be misinformed and inconvenienced as I was. Alternatively, I suggested that a simple "I'm sorry. We made a mistake." would have resulted in the same. I don't know if the store manager actually followed up by addressing the customer service issue with his subordinate, but I can tell you that I purchased a refrigerator at Lowe's the very next day. My desire to save a few dollars by comparison shopping was overshadowed by my need for customer satisfaction.

What I do find most confusing is why any business person would not understand customer service from the point of view of the consumer. Aren't they consumers too?

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